WZO victory achieved through 'wall-to-wall' coalition - opinion

The signing ceremony brought together a cross section of the Jewish people, continuing the tradition of the WZO going back to the days of Theodore Herzl.

Yaakov Hagoel-Chairman of the executive, World Zionist Organization(WZO) (photo credit: ELAD BARAMI)
Yaakov Hagoel-Chairman of the executive, World Zionist Organization(WZO)
(photo credit: ELAD BARAMI)
After two weeks of of headlines about a "hostile takeover of the World Zionist Organization" by the Right and the Orthodox, representatives of political parties, Jewish organizations and religious streams across the religious and political spectrum came together in Jerusalem last Thursday to sign a wall-to-wall coalition agreement.
The signing ceremony brought together a cross section of the Jewish people, continuing the tradition of the WZO going back to the days of Theodore Herzl.
Mizrachi's representative at the ceremony was Avraham Duvdevani, who has been following in Herzl's footsteps. He will leave his post as WZO chairman to become head of Keren Kayemet, both posts once held by the visionary Zionist leader.
Even Herzl could not have dreamed that one day his successor would be a religious Zionist who wears a crocheted kippa. The truth is that even a decade ago, it would have been unimaginable that Mizrachi would take over such venerable institutions.
This history happened not because of any back room deals in Jerusalem but because proud religious Zionists in the United States demonstrated their commitment to Israel's future by casting ballots for the Orthodox Israel Coalition in the American Zionist Movement's voting online from January to March.
The coalition united the Orthodox Union, Yeshiva University, Touro College, Bnei Akiva, AMIT, the RCA, the National Council of Young Israel and Torah Mitzion. There were also religious Zionist delegates to the Zionist Congress from Australia, Europe, Russia, South America, South Africa and Israel.   
Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, warned on Twitter of "an extreme right wing attempt to dominate" the WZO. But the agreement signed fairly distributes control over Zionist institutions and departments to a wide range of Jewish organizations and factions, from Orthodox to Reform and from Right to Left.
The Mizrachi faction that will lead Keren Kayemet includes representatives of the Yamina party on the Right, as well as the Derech Eretz party that ran with Blue and White in the last three elections for Knesset. Since its founding in 1902 by Rabbi Yitzchak Yaacov Reines at a world conference of religious Zionists in Vilnius, the Mizrachi has been home to religious Zionists with a host of different political views.
Religious Zionists have helped settle the Land of Israel, building beautiful communities and have even been among the leaders of Peace Now advocating territorial concessions. They have been generals and pacifists. They are the leaders of yeshivot and universities, Torah scholars and hi-tech executives.
After it heads the KKL for two years, Mizrachi will have control for three years over the WZO's Settlement Division, which like KKL, works to develop Israel's periphery in the Negev and Galilee, a goal that is the key to the future of a country that is overly populated in its center and underpopulated in its periphery.
Mizrachi will also head the WZO's Education Department, reflecting a commitment to education that has been the focus of religious Zionists for centuries. Religious Zionist parties have made a point of asking for the Education Ministry in almost all Israeli governments.
When there was concern that funding would be stopped for Masa, Mizrachi stepped in to solve the problem and help students from across the spectrum come to Israel on long-term programs. Upgrading stipends for Masa was a central campaign promise of the Orthodox Israel Coalition that we intend to keep.
Unlike sectarian factions that serve themselves when given power,  Mizrachi aims to serve all of Klal Israel - all its sectors, streams and sub-groups. The central tenets of religious Zionism are advancing the Torah of Israel, the Land of Israel and the entire nation of Israel, not just ourselves.     That is why our victory in the Zionist Movement election is really a win for Jews around the world who care about the future of the Jewish state.
Due to the coronavirus, the Zionist Congress was held virtually. But its positive impact on the future of Israel and the Jewish Diaspora will be unmistakably real.
Mizrachi - the Religious Zionists of America, will use their greater influence to benefit the State of Israel and klal Israel - all branches, sectors and streams. We will continue to be the bridge builders, facilitating friendship and collegiality among Jews around the world. At such a divisive time for the Jewish people in the US, Israel and around the world, this has never been more important.
When asked where the emphasis is in religious-Zionism, my answer has always been in the hyphen that connects them. We are proud to be both observant keepers of commandments and lovers of the homeland of the Jewish people.
With gratitude to God, we will continue to spread His light and help Israel, the light unto the nations.
The writer is co-president of the  Mizrachi-Religious Zionists of America, chairman of the Center for Righteousness and Integrity and a committee member of the Jewish Agency. Martinoliner@gmail.com.